When the IPL was launched in 2008, there was very little attention given to the Indian domestic players who would make up the open spots in the playing elevens. Indian domestic cricket had never been as glamorous as its Australian or English counterparts, as Indian internationals scarcely made appearances in dreary games in empty stadiums in the the farthest corners of the country.
Even as the profile of young Indian talent has risen since, the foreign players have historically still managed to make the biggest differences in the IPL. There has been no Indian equivalent to Chris Gayle, AB De Villiers, Lasith Malinga, or Sunil Narine. Until this season.
Forget the Indian international players- India’s young brigade has taken this tournament by the horns and made it theirs. Ambati Rayadu, exiled from the ODI side for his inadequate strike-rate, has forced himself back into the squad with performances for Chennai nobody knew he was capable of producing. Rishabh Pant holds the Purple Cap, and he looks to be as brutal a striker of the ball as anyone around the world. Colin Munro, who has the most T20I hundreds to his name, has fallen out of favour at the top of Delhi’s order for the 18-year-old Prithvi Shaw.
Before this IPL, I wrote that the restrictions placed on Indian players playing in T20 leagues abroad would hamper us in developing elite talent. I’ve been forced to eat my words. I suppose the first signs were visible at the U-19 World Cup earlier this year, when a supremely talented, mature, and well-prepared Indian team walked over each of their opponents without breaking a sweat.
The fact is, it is natural for India to come to dominate world cricket, in what could be unprecedented fashion. The country’s failure to do so has been put down to a lack of infrastructure and cultural issues in the past, but as the country continues to develop and the BCCI coffers swell, the millions of children playing cricket around India now have greater opportunity than generations before them. This comes at a time when interest in cricket around the world seems to be thinly supported by T20 revenues and further gimmickry, and the number of young people actually playing multi-day cricket in other countries dwindles.
Brendom McCullum said in an interview this week that he expects T20 to end Test cricket, and for international cricket to be replaced with a system more akin to football’s club ownership of players. While such developments are still a far way away, it is hard to deny that the sport is trending toward that direction, and that India’s supply of financial capital and cricketing talent will continue to further establish it as the unquestionable controlling interest in the game.